Key quartet can make play-off final difference


Aston Villa (47/20) and Fulham (13/10) do battle for a place back in the Premier League on Saturday, but who will be the inspiration on the pitch at Wembley in the Championship play-off final?

The so-called ‘richest game in football’ thankfully sees the two sides who finished third and fourth in the final table go head-to-head. So, with seemingly little to choose between them (draw 21/10), individual brilliance could be key on the day. Here are four players to watch out for.

1. Ryan Sessegnon (Fulham)

Probably the most talked-about player in the Championship, the teenager is so good he was touted by many as being the wildcard pick in Gareth Southgate’s England World Cup squad. The left-back-turned-winger in the end didn’t make the 23 for Russia but he’s tipped to be a regular for his country before long and expect him to dazzle at Wembley.

Sessegnon to score first or last – 5/2.

Sessegnon scored the first in the 2-0 second-leg win over Derby to help turn the semi-final around and he’s usually at the heart of most things the Cottagers do well going forward. Pacey, technically gifted and with an eye for goal, Sessegnon can also defend so he’s pretty much the full package already – and he only turned 18 last week.

2. Jack Grealish

Another talented young Englishman, Grealish has added more depth and greater consistency to his game this season. When he first burst onto the scene a couple of years ago, he was somewhat of a rough diamond. The 22-year-old clearly had the skill and athleticism to make a big impact but there were question marks over his attitude and desire.

A few high-profile off-the-field incidents and the warnings that his career was under threat that followed appear to have had a positive effect, while a serious kidney injury also forced him to refocus. Now playing the best football of his life, Grealish will aim to get on the ball as much as possible on Saturday and can create openings – and goals – for Villa when they need it most.

Villa to score first – 27/20.

3. Aleksandar Mitrovic

The Serbia international always looked like he had an eye for goal at Newcastle but he wasn’t given much chance to regularly prove it under Rafa Benitez and was loaned out to Fulham in January, where he took his frustration out on Championship defences.

With 12 goals and one assist from 17 games, he’s been a key driving force for the Londoners and a goalscoring revelation. The 23-year-old seems to be at his best when he feels he has a point to prove and, after not scoring in the semi-final, he might be angry on Saturday. Villa should be worried.

Mitrovic to score first or last – 7/5.

4. John Terry (Aston Villa)

Of all the players on show on Saturday, Terry easily has the most Wembley experience and big-game know-how under his belt. Still a fantastic organiser and communicator at the back, the former Chelsea man will be the leader some of the younger Villa players turn to to help them get through the occasion and he will be desperate to secure one last season in the Premier League.

There may be concerns, at 37, that his lack of pace could be exploited by Fulham but his positional play and willingness to defend at all costs should be crucial at keeping Slavisa Jokanovic’s side quiet.

Villa to keep a clean sheet – 21/10.

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